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Cash hasn't caught on in Goroka

The money comes to town in string bags and biscuit tins, and once in a while someone brings in a wheelbarrow load for a special purchase. But the dollar, or kina, as the currency is called in Papua New Guinea, has not yet attained the "almighty" status of its Western counterpart.

More than $100 million passed through the Highlands in return for coffee last season. But according to bank managers in the remote village township of Goroka , only a fraction made its way into commercial vaults, and little flowed back into the economy.

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Three modern banks in Goroka clamor for the privilege of holding the natives' money. The government is understandably anxious to keep the stuff in circulation. But the people grow or make much of what they need.

Unless consumer interest picks up, it's quite likely the paper currency will rot in the ground where it is thought to be stored. The community is full of stories of tribal folk wandering straight from the bush into local car or truck dealerships, emptying tins and wheelbarrows of cash onto the showroom floor and driving off in a new vehicle.

However, some indication of the Highlands cash flow is reflected in the volume of antique currency crossing the counters of Goroka's stores. Coinage hoarded from bygone German, British, and Australian colonials is commonplace.

Although spending of cash money for education is on the upswing, people here are still more likely to equate their prosperity with the number of children and livestock they have.

A visitor can find a sumptuous three- course lunch -- with wine and coffee -- for a mere $4.50. Villagers are more apt to feast fresh fruit and vegetables from the town market, however, which costs only a few cents.

There is a segment of Papua New Guinea where transition from self-sufficiency to wages has been made and where the Western- style economy has become a burden.

In Port Moresby, the greater part of the urban worker's wages is lost in pursuit of such highly advertised commodities as tinned fish and beef, cigarettes, soft drinks, and beer.


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